Advancing Justice | Chicago statement on Korean language sample ballots in Chicago & Cook County

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Advancing Justice | Chicago’s Legal Director Andy Kang spoke at a press conference today announcing Korean language sample ballots will be available in areas of Chicago and Cook County with high numbers of limited-English proficient Korean voters. This is a major victory for Advancing Justice | Chicago, the Korean American Resource and Cultural Center, and the Korean community of Chicago, as these ballots will be provided by the County and City voluntarily, not yet mandated by federal law. Andy Kang’s full statement is below. 

Good Morning, my name is Andy Kang and I’m the Legal Director at Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Chicago. We are a Pan-Asian organization that seeks to empower the Asian American community through advocacy, research, and coalition-building.

Through our Voting Rights Project we advance the rights of Asian Americans by collaborating with community leaders and election officials. We worked with the Chinese American community in 2002, and the South Asian community in 2012 to ensure ballot access for our communities, and now, in partnership with KRCC, we have extended some of this language assistance to the Korean community.

Last year, Advancing Justice-Chicago and KRCC had discussions with the Cook County Clerk’s Office about the possibility of providing Korean voters in the suburbs a translated sample ballot and bilingual election judges. The Clerk’s Office agreed to partner with us in providing this language assistance in areas where the need is greatest. By the end of last year, the Chicago Board of Elections joined these discussions and also agreed to provide Korean language services in Chicago’s highest areas of need.
According to the U.S. Census, it’s estimated that there are around 37,000 Korean Americans in Cook County. Over 40% of Korean Americans in Cook County are considered Limited English Proficient (LEP), meaning that they may have some difficulty with speaking or reading English. This is about 15,000 Korean Americans. So this news today will potentially help many Korean Americans vote. It’s truly a historic moment for the Korean American community in Illinois. Only 2 other states in the country, California and New York, provide Korean translated ballots of any kind.

Just as we have in other elections, this year Advancing Justice will send out poll watchers on Election Day to protect the voting rights of the Asian American community. We’ll collect valuable information on how language assistance is provided and share that with Cook County election officials so we can work together to improve language assistance for the Asian American voters.

Finally, on a personal note, my father came to this country in 1957, settling in Chicago in 1967. He always told me growing up how it seemed that he knew every Korean in Chicagoland back then because the community was small. But look how much our community has grown since then. As a 2nd generation Korean American who was born and raised in Illinois, I’m extremely proud of our community and honored to be part of this day.

Big thanks to the Cook County Clerk’s Office and the Chicago Board of Elections for working with us to make voting easier for the Korean American community.